Historical and Touristic Notes
The origins of Siena are mysterious. Perhaps the Etruscans, the Gauls or the Romans founded the city. Because of the lack of actual historical evidence, numerous legends have arisen about the origins of Siena.
The most famous one tells that in the 8th century BC. Senio and Aschio, sons of Remus, fled from Rome and their cruel uncle Romulus, carrying away the famous statue of the She-wolf suckling the twins. Running they arrived near the river Tressa and, helped by some shepherds, they built a castle that they called Castelvecchio, around which the city would have developed.
Going from legend to history, Siena is still remembered as an important center, first Etruscan and then Roman. During the government of Ottaviano Augusto (29 b.C.) it became a military colony called Saena Iulia. The development of the city took place especially in the Middle Ages thanks to its strategic position on the main road axis of the time: the Via Francigena, the obligatory route to and from Rome.
The road had a positive influence on the city’s trade and commerce, and the Sienese became more present at the fairs of Germany and Provence, so the bankers began to do business with the Pope and the major European courts.
Siena became an economic threat to nearby Florence, already a political enemy. The struggle between the two cities was essentially political between the Ghibelline faction (supporters of the emperor) supported by Siena and the Guelph faction (supporters of the Pope) supported by Florence.
In September 1260 the fight resulted in the Battle of Montaperti which ended with a crushing victory of the Sienese over the Florentines. The period from the middle of the thirteenth to the middle of the fourteenth century was one of the most prosperous and happy for the Republic of Siena, were in fact built the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, was designed the Duomo Nuovo and the city itself was enriched with works of art.
In 1348 a terrible plague spread throughout Europe, Siena was also affected and the population was reduced to less than half. For the Republic is the beginning of a slow decline. A Sienese legend tells that it was a dead crow, fallen in Via Stalloreggi (a central street of the city), to spread the plague.
The city returned to a period of splendor only in the middle of the fifteenth century when Enea Silvio Piccolomini was elected Pope. Siena was embellished with important monuments such as the Logge del Papa (Pope’s Loggia), and in 1472, the Monte di Pietà was founded, which in the seventeenth century became Monte dei Paschi. The name originates from the word “paschi” because at the beginning of its activity this institute obtained money from the rents of the “pastures” in Maremma used for transhumance.
During the early sixteenth century, when the largest European countries sought to expand their borders to Italy, Siena was a contested city; even the Emperor Charles V, supported by the Florentines, tried to conquer it. The imperial army besieged the city, starting the historic War of Siena, which ended in 1555 with the defeat of the city, which shortly after was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany ruled by Cosimo I dei Medici. The powerful Florentine Medici family ruled over all of Tuscany until the end of the 18th century.
At the beginning of the 20th century Siena was still a small provincial town. A large number of families were forced to live in old houses, whose hygienic conditions were very poor. During the years of Fascism, entire neighborhoods were demolished and rebuilt, and the world-famous University for Foreigners and the Accademia Musicale Chigiana were founded.
Thanks to a ‘special law’ (1963) that protected the monuments, the city has retained its medieval appearance that you can still admire, walking through the ancient streets.
Once its medical functions were completed and following an important recovery operation begun in 1992, Santa Maria della Scala, one of the oldest and largest hospitals in Europe and one of the first xenodochi, became an important museum complex.
In its more than 20 thousand square meters of exhibition space, the entire history of the city and of an institution known and regulated by its own autonomous statute since the beginning of the 14th century comes alive. Here, Il Pellegrinaio stands out, the most beautiful and fascinating room of Santa Maria della Scala with the most important cycle of the fifteenth century in Siena.
They were Lorenzo di Pietro called the Vecchietta, Domenico di Bartolo and Priamo della Quercia to fresco four of the six double bays, for a total of eight large scenes, in which appear, pilgrims, abandoned children, nannies and oblates, doctors and the sick, bishops and blessed, indigent and noble lords.
Inside Santa Maria della Scala, on the occasion of the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy celebrated on November 20, 2016, opened its doors the Pilgrim’s Hostel, reserved for the hospitality and reception of travelers traveling along the Via Francigena from or to Rome. The Pilgrim’s Hostel is housed in what was once the Casa delle Balie (House of the Nannies), where infants who were not accepted by their families of origin were hospitalized.
For further information: Siena municipality and Tuscany accommodation and facilities
means of transport
Three main lines pass through Siena’s train station: the Siena-Florence line (via Empoli), the Siena-Chiusi line and the Siena-Grosseto line (with a stop at Buonconvento).
Near the station there are both a parking lot at a subsidized price, both the bus station, and a system of free escalators that allow you to quickly get into town in the area of Porta Camollia (the escalator system passes within a large shopping center where there are stores of various kinds, bars, restaurants and supermarkets).
Siena is connected with fast bus lines to Florence station and with the main Tuscan towns (Tiemme) including those on the route of the Ultramarathon as well as with the main Italian towns.
Public transport timetables within the province of Siena on the site of Tiemme that manages the network – go to the timetables and lines on the site of Tiemme
Railway timetables of the line Siena Buonconvento
To learn more connect to Visit Siena without the car
parking and moving around Siena
Siena is small and can be visited on foot. If you arrive by train from the station an escalator system will take you quickly to Porta Camollia and from there you’ll reach the Duomo in 15 minutes.
For those arriving by car it is convenient to use the free parking lots located at the ring road exits. We recommend either Siena Ovest or, even better, the large parking lot located 500 meters after Siena Sud in the direction (towards the east) of the Cassia.
Siena Sud parking lot: once you have left your car, you can take a minibus (called “pollicini”) which stops near the parking lot and takes you quickly into the city (ticket machine at the stop). At this parking lot the shuttle bus will also stop to return from Acquapendente on Sunday evening and the one to return from San Quirico on Saturday evening (for the walkers who made the two routes SB and BSQ).
The whole walled part of the city is a Limited Traffic Zone and therefore cars must be left outside the walls. Any agreements for paid parking near the gates will be reported promptly.